Prevalence, characteristics, and impact of bloating symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Jan;7(1):68-72; quiz 3. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2008.07.008.


Background & aims: Bloating symptoms are common in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seen in primary care and gastrointestinal clinics. However, the underlying mechanisms of IBS are poorly understood, and there are few data available about the epidemiology of this syndrome or the impact of its symptoms. We investigated the prevalence, characteristics, and impact of bloating symptoms in patients with IBS.

Methods: IBS patients were identified by Rome II criteria in a U.S. population representative web-based survey. Patients were asked about the quality, frequency, and severity of their gastrointestinal symptoms. The impact of these symptoms was investigated by assessing patients' health-related quality of life, utilization of health care, and use of medications.

Results: Of the 337 IBS patients in this study, 82.5% (n = 278) reported bloating symptoms, the second most bothersome symptom after abdominal cramping. The symptoms were more prevalent in female patients, 87.4% (n = 209), than in male patients, 70.4% (n = 69) (P < .0001), and in patients with constipation, 88.7% (n = 47), and mixed symptoms, 88.8% (n = 135), than in patients with diarrhea, 72.3% (n = 96), (P = .02 and P < .01, respectively). Bloating symptoms were the third (of 14) most important reason to seek medical care, and more than half of the patients reported regular use of anti-gas medications. Bloating symptoms were associated with decreased energy levels (P = .04), food intake (P < .01), and physical functioning (P = .06).

Conclusions: Bloating symptoms are common in patients with IBS, and their prevalence and relative severity differ on the basis of sex and IBS subtype. Bloating symptoms are associated with a decrease in the quality of life and increases in health care utilization and use of medications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colic / epidemiology
  • Constipation / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Drug Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Flatulence / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology